NFL Playoff Picture and Predictions

Sam Elkin, Online Staff Writer

As the 2020-2021 NFL season is nearing the playoffs, many teams are fighting to either win their division or make the wildcard to earn a spot in the playoffs. This year, the NFL imposed a new playoff format, which hasn’t been changed since 2002. The new change adds two more playoff teams (one more wildcard team per conference), resulting in two additional playoff games, giving the NFL more money. Although more teams will have a shot at the playoffs, now only one per conference will get the first round bye.

With just four more weeks left in the NFL season, the playoff picture for division leaders from the AFC includes the defending Champions of the Kansas City Chiefs (11-1), who have already clinched the playoffs, the Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1), the Buffalo Bills, (9-3), and the Tennessee Titans (8-4). The NFC division leaders, as of just after Week 13, are the New Orleans Saints (10-2), who have already clinched the playoffs, followed by the Green Bay Packers (9-3), the Los Angeles Rams (8-4), and the New York Giants (5-7), who just came on top with a big win against the Seattle Seahawks, putting the Rams into the playoff picture, keeping the Giants in.

Just after Week 13 of the season, there are many teams that are fighting for their chance for the wildcard spot, known as teams in the hunt. At the top of the wildcard picture from the AFC are the Cleveland Browns (9-3), the Miami Dolphins (8-4), the Indianapolis Colts (8-4) being trailed by the Las Vegas Raiders (7-5) and the Baltimore Ravens (7-5). Freshman Harry Epstein suggested that “the [Miami] Dolphins will [definitely] make the playoffs.” The NFC teams competing for the wildcard spots as of now are, at the top, the Seattle Seahawks (8-4), the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-5), and the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) with the Arizona Cardinals (6-6) and the Chicago Bears (5-7) just behind them.

The NFC East, consisting of the Washington Football Team (5-7), the New York Giants (5-7), the Philadelphia Eagles (3-8-1), and the Dallas Cowboys (3-9), is the closest division, and it is destined for change. All of the teams have very similar losing records, so only the divisional winner will make the playoffs. As mentioned previously, the Giants came off a big win against the Seahawks this week, but the Football Team, who would love their first playoff appearance since 2015, defeated the undefeated Steelers, putting them in serious contention for the NFC East as well. Freshman Sam Cohen noted that “To be honest none of the teams in contention deserve a spot in the playoffs, but it is the NFC East [so one team has to make it]. I think if the Eagles start Jalen Hurts, they will make the playoffs, but if they keep Carson Wentz, it will be the Washington Football Team.”

With the playoffs concluding with the Super Bowl on February 7, 2021, Epstein also predicts that “the [Pittsburgh] Steelers” will become victorious, winning their seventh Super Bowl. Cohen, on the other hand, mentioned, “I don’t think anyone is going to beat [Patrick] Mahomes. The [Kansas City] Chiefs will win the Super Bowl; they are too good not to.” Cohen has faith in the reigning champs to go back to back and win Super Bowl LV. I personally think that the Green Bay Packers, currently 9-3, will win their fifth Super Bowl.